Over the past few years, a paradigm shift has been noted in the ways governments work and use Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to deliver better services to their constituencies using the Open Government (OG) approach. OG is an innovation in governance and administration that instigates a rethinking and updating of administrative procedures to meet citizens’ demands and expectations. It entails cultural, organizational, procedural and attitudinal changes in how public servants relate to citizens. OG initiatives intend to increase transparency of governments, boost number of services to people, open up new business opportunities and jobs for application and service developers, and develop new synergies between government, public administration, and civil society organization.
Open Government Data (OGD) is the pillar of OG strategies where public institutions including state and local government agencies upload their raw data on the Web in reusable, machinereadable and open formats. OGD then facilitates access to public information stored by governments on behalf of the citizens such as meteorological, legal, traffic, financial, economic, population and demographic data as well as maps; excluding sensitive or individual information.
The most important benefits generated by OG include:
- Increased transparency, engagement and accountability of governments
- Increased number of services to people resulting from increased base of potential service providers
- New innovative business opportunities and jobs for application and service developers
- New synergies between government, public administration and civil society organizations
- Increased citizen participation and inclusion through extended offers of services closer to people’s needs
- Interoperability and openness of government information
The Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) supports member States in the formulation, implementation and evaluation of national ICT and Science and Technology policies and strategies for sustainable development. ECA’s support focuses not only on the development and implementation of policies and strategies at national level, but also at sectoral level. In this regard, support has been provided to a number of countries in the development and implementation of their e-government strategies.
As African countries are currently moving from policy formulation to implementation, open government is a sector with high investment potential. Countries such as Kenya and Ghana have initiated OG programmes to improve transparency, unlock social and economic value, and build Government 2.0 platforms. These OG initiatives could facilitate applications in health, public expenditure, education, infrastructural development and other areas While there is an increased interest in OGD to improve transparency, citizen participation interoperability and internal efficiency, embarking on such initiatives requires changes in the way government thinks, its policy, organizational structure, regulation and, of course, its technological infrastructure. There are many challenges to deal with, including fragmentation of open data, lack of access to open data, lack of technical and organizational interoperability and difficulties with processing of data. In addition, closed government culture, privacy legislation, limited quality of data, lack of standardization of open data policy, and security threats are considered as major obstacles of Open Government initiatives.
In view of the above, ECA launched an analytical study of policy, legal and regulator environments favourable for Open Government implementation in Africa in 2013. The study is currently at its final stage where the results and outcomes will be reviewed by African experts and policy makers. As a result, ECA is organising the Expert Group Meeting on Review of the Study on Open Government Data in Africa from 05-06 June 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa. The meeting will bring together experts on open government data implementation in Africa and provide a forum for experts and policy makers to interact with each other and review the analytical study.
The meeting is aimed at bringing open government data experts and policy makers together to review the analytical study of policy, legal and regulatory environments favourable for Open Government implementation in Africa. There will also be a general discussion on the policy issues related to the implementation of open government data programmes in Africa as well as lessons learnt in African countries and elsewhere. It is expected that participants of the meeting will critically review and provide feedback on the work of the ECA consultants who have developed a policy guideline for open government data implementation in Africa.
Participants will be drawn from selected African experts on open government data including the consultants, policy makers, representatives from the Government of South Africa, NEPAD and ECA.
Venue, date, and agenda
The expert group meeting will take place from 05-06 June 2014 in Pretoria, South Africa.
English will be the working language of the EGM.
Chief, New Technologies & Innovation
Special Initiatives Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia